So why is the ukulele continuing to rise in popularity? Yes it’s a cute four-stringed box of joy that fits in your backpack but it’s so much more than that…
Why are so many huge uke festivals and groups forming,and staying together, in just about every town around Australia? Singer and uke teacher Anu Grace says it’s because the ukulele is turning out to be the new ‘social glue’.
“It brings all age groups and demographics together with a shared language,” says Anu, whose youngest uke student is five and oldest is 70.
“It invites us to sing socially and re-live our favourite music. It’s inclusive and facilitates a happy feeling. Townsville Ukuleles, with their logo ‘Uke’n be Happy’, is a local group that regularly has 50 or more people strumming away. They ran their first Ukulele Festival in May at Rollingstone and it was just what you want a uke festival to be – hanging out under the coconut palms, playing, singing and enjoying being together.”
Kids love it because it’s just their size and I believe uke is the most accessible instrument to teach kids music literacy. – Anu Grace
Anu runs a Monday night Ukestra group for all skill levels followed by a Uke Geeks class for serious students.
“We delve into jazz arrangements, theory and soloing to get to understand just how this little instrument really knits together. I started playing it in New Zealand when the Play it Strange Trust rolled out free ukes and teacher tra ining for any school interested. As a music teacher I jumped on that and uke teaching became my primary focus and I’m still fascinated by it.”
Anu says that while learning to play the ukulele as well as her teacher James Hill is a big stretch, learning a simple riff and chord pattern for a Ukestra is achievable for all ages.
“Kids love it because it’s just their size and I believe uke is the most accessible instrument to teach kids music literacy,” she says. “Uke is also great for keeping the brain and fingers active, which is why so many older people have embraced it.”
The Pop-Up UKESTRA
In collaboration with Umbrella Studio’s Pop-up Arts festival PUNQ, the Pop-Up UKESTRA (Ukulele Orchestra) is for all those who want a bit of music in their life.
Everyone who has a ukulele, or even complete beginners who would just like to try it (there’ll be spare ukes to borrow), is invited to a rehearsal on Tuesday 1 August at Bulletin Square to learn parts for a performance on Sunday 6 August.
“Even though we’re working toward a performance at Cotters Market, we have the safety of numbers so you can just come along for the ride,” says Ukestra facilitator Anu Grace.
The Pop-up Ukestra is sponsored by Townsville City Council and everyone can learn to play some great uplifting tunes. Details and tickets ($15) are available at www.AnuGrace.eventbrite.com.au